The world’s climate is changing–you’ve probably heard that before and thought of the things that rise, like temperature and sea levels. You’ve wondered about floods and beach erosion, and maybe even made the connection to higher insurance prices and declining real estate investments. You may have thought about drier weather in the West and the wildfires it spawns to threaten human housing and wild habitats. Of course, there’s the melting ice caps in the Arctic, Greenland, and Antarctica; the vanishing glaciers that once fed the great rivers of civilization.
But you haven’t thought about your spirit animals, or what will happen to our connections to the spirit world when their living counterparts vanish from the landscape. To be fair, no one talks about it. But maybe it is well past the time we should. Whether they are Platonic entities–spiritual perfect forms–or ancestral spirits of the animals themselves, there is a sympathetic magic that we’re dealing with that will eventually play itself out. As the species of the world decline around you and me, our connections will begin to vanish, also. Our spiritual courts will be impoverished without the wisdom of birds, four-legged, and the swimming people.
Allow me to provide an example: Who do you know works often with the spirit of the antelope? These species range mostly throughout Africa–the highest concentration and variety–and large parts of the Asian continent. However, their ancient counterparts in Europe and the Americas went extinct sometime in the Pleistocene, sometimes coinciding with the arrival of humans on the land. But today, they are not where we are. They do not make up parts of our spirit families because we are no longer in relationship with their living relatives. Antelopes represent either a loss connection to the spirit world, or one that never happened.
The same could be true to many thousands of species we claim as spiritual guides today. It is well known and documented that one of the major and most impactful effects of global climate change will be in the animal and plant worlds. (In fact, we use migration patterns to diagnose the health of environments as a result of climate change.)
Notice the general trend northwards among different animal species. Full map here.
There are things we must consider. There are questions that need answers:
- Will the crows come to deliver messages from beyond, when they no longer visit our backyards to caw?
- Will we try to call on bear and puma to guide us, will their spirit still linger in the land?
- As nature either dies and withers in the new, scorching heat, will the spirits lend their help or shun us?
- Why should any spirit bound to Nature help us if our lifestyles crowded out and destroyed theirs?
When they leave our landscapes, or this world entirely through the passageways of extinction, we will lose this connection. It goes beyond spiritual and astral journeys. It is a connection that seeps into our magic, a gentle guidance at the background of our everyday lives. It sustains our mental well-being, too. As they are part of Nature, they are part of the healing that takes place in the wilderness we haven’t trampled. They are respite and reminders we are more than myopic toolmakers, we are related to all life genetically and spiritually. They are the gateway to a deeper sense of being that enfolds us in grace and harmony with everything around us, whispers our origins and ultimate destiny.
When they are gone from our landscapes–and it may all happen within this century–our species will be diminished. Some may hold on to fruitless connections, others may have deserved the company of ghosts, but none of it will be the same. The desolation we feel in the worst of urban sprawls will find no relief in the broken wilderness that remains.
I was inspired to write this post because of a recently published study released by the Audubon Society. It claims that 314 bird species will face diminished ranges and be forced to migrate away from where they live now. I’ve known about the Sixth Mass Extinction currently underway for a while now, and I understand what it means. But I scrolled down the website and spotted many of my most beloved birds on the list, one of which is a very close spirit ally of mine. The sense of loss and guilt I felt was tremendous. I knew I had to write about this in a different way and present it in a format I hadn’t seen before.
Remember always, there are living, loving beings at risk of extinction because of our lifestyles. If all of us fit in dynamic harmony within Mother Earth, we should make sure they fit within our human worlds as well. They are our allies.